Alumnus Honors His Band
The World War II vintage snare drum has such a long association with McMurry that it’s only fitting the prized instrument should be returned there. And that is exactly what happened Oct. 3 when 1952 graduate Odis Claxton donated that drum and two others to his alma mater.
The 1940s-era cream colored drum was fashioned almost entirely of wood because of the shortage of metal during the war.
“The only thing metal in it was the screws,” Claxton said during an interview at Coronado Nursing Home, where he now lives.
That drum and another one made by legendary drummer Billy Gladstone will be on display in the Bynum Band Hall at McMurry, while the third donation, a professional quality drum made by the Pearl Corporation, will be used by students.
“That’s a great addition” to the collection of percussion instruments McMurry owns, said L. Keith Lloyd, assistant director of bands.
Lloyd, who has been at McMurry eight years, developed a friendship with Claxton about seven years ago and it has been a good one. When he was able Claxton, 82, would join McMurry musicians for Sunday afternoon jam sessions.
McMurry faculty and students often would take an ensemble to play for Claxton when he was in assisted living.
Until recent years, Claxton could still play with the best of them. A 1948 graduate of Abilene High School (AHS), Claxton was a music education major at McMurry, earning his degree in 1952. He then returned to AHS as assistant band director under Bob Fielder. For one year while he was still in high school, Claxton learned under legendary “Prof” Raymond Bynum, who left AHS to lead the McMurry program.
Even in high school, Claxton was a professional, filling in with a dance band at Abilene Country Club on occasion. Usually, he played drums, but not always.
“A little bit of bass fiddle sometimes,” he said. “Not much.”
The summer after graduation from AHS, Claxton attended band camp at McMurry, as did another young man named Jack Rumbley. After the camp, Claxton enrolled at McMurry and Rumbley set out for what is now the University of North Texas.
Both men would go on to become band directors. Some years later, Claxton bought the World War II vintage drum from Rumbley, who has since died.
The drum, along with others, recently was removed from a storage room by McMurry band students and taken to the University for proper care and display. The donated drums were accepted during a dedication ceremony at the recent breakfast for music alumni.